Historic City News received word this morning that the local newspaper, The St Augustine Record, “recommends returning Mayor Nancy Shaver to the City Hall,” primarily because Shaver “tried to make good on the issues she identified in our editorial meeting two years ago”.
Shaver was also praised in the editorial endorsement because of the way in which she has handled “the vicious, misleading PAC attacks leveled at her the past two weeks,” observing that she has “taken it with near aplomb”.
With a new editor, a new publisher, and what Mayor Shaver has described as a “better business relationship”, the editorial board, which also includes editorial page editor Jim Sutton, acknowledged that when she first ran two years ago, “We did not endorse her then, but we do now.”
The Record is giving the mayor well deserved recognition saying, “She’s learned a lot about the city. She works it pretty hard.” They concluded in their endorsement of the first woman to be elected mayor, and only the second to hold the office by appointment, “She has earned another two years on the commission — and probably in the trenches.”
Incumbent Nancy Shaver faces challenger Kris Phillips in the St. Augustine Mayoral race. Both are intelligent and articulate candidates and both tout business backgrounds as important assets.
Asked about her job priorities over the coming two-year term, Phillips said the playbook was rewritten by Hurricane Matthew, and talked at length about recovery. And it was really to the exclusion of many of the other issues we think are important to voters. Social services in the wake of the storm, she said, were jobs No. 1, 2 and 3. There is no doubt that the city was hurt, and the administration and staff have been working overtime on fixing the damage, both structural and personal. But the other business must go on. She also prioritizes infrastructure, especially fixing city streets “even if we bring in additional sources.” The two agree on that. Shaver’s been an especially outspoken proponent for putting more resources into our streets in particular and infrastructure in general. Truth is, both cover all the buzzwords, including mobility, parking, grants, land use, etc.
So what’s the difference? The elephant in the mayoral room is temperament.
Phillips emphasizes that she is a consensus-builder. That segued naturally into the question, “Is that different from your opponent?” Phillips did display her diplomatic skill, answering, “That’s not her strongest point.”
And it’s not.
Shaver came into office like gangbusters two years ago. One thing being a business executive does not teach is how to share authority with four other humans. She made campaign promises and set out to deliver to her constituents. The problem was that her election was nowhere near a mandate of the people. She won by a 1.5 percent margin. She’s pushy. And from the beginning we expected fireworks when she pushed against three other strong — and incumbent — women on the commission. Todd Neville, at that point, was a wild card. But the fireworks went off as planned.
From the looks of things, we’re not going to see the St. Augustine City Commission teaching the world to sing “in per-fect har-mo-ny” anytime soon, though Phillips’ demeanor seems almost scripted for a peacemaker should she be elected.
But discord is not necessarily a bad thing on a governing board. We see much more of it these days, one, because the of live TV coverage and, more importantly, the Sunshine Law. All discussions happen live and in real time, not in back rooms anymore. In a twist on Bismark’s famous quote, “politics is like sausages, its better not to see it being made.”
Bottom line is we believe the end result of the sausage-making at City Hall has shown positive results since Shaver took office. It’s worth noting that, in any tiff, it takes two to tango. And some of her fellow commissioners return fire in spades. Everybody need to understand their roles as one of five decision-makers. The mayor’s no different than the rest — other than the responsibility to bang gavels and kiss babies.